Sunday 26 February 2012

Head of the Trent

This year, we went to the Head of the Trent (Sunday 26th February). It was great, we should do it more often - like the Head of the River, only more convenient to get to and less hassle all round. But still a big river where the stream matters, and hundreds of crews [*]. It is nominally a 6k course, but actually 5.5 in distance, and effectively less than that due to the stream. In practice, it is pretty well the same duration as Tideway, probably not accidentally.

Most of us went up the night before and Paul organised us a dorm at The Igloo which was great for our purposes, and only slightly less great for the one other guy in the room who had to cope with us all getting up at 6:45 and trooping around in exaggerated quiet, then back in a bit later to collect our bags. The giants amongst us got to sleep on the floor, since the beds weren't huge, but I was happy. The Italian was good, too, even though they forgot to keep the table we'd booked. So I won't tell you their name, and anyway I've forgotten it.

DSCN2382-in-the-shadow-of-brian-clough As I say, we crept out early and drove down to the Brian Clough Stadium and met up with James and James, who had brought the boat (no obvious secure parkage for overnighting it). Since we were early, we had the car park nearly to ourselves, and I forgot the Golden Rule, which is make sure your exit route is (un)covered - there are multiple divisions, and we were in the first, so getting out when we were done was a bit tricky.

DSCN2384 If you look very closely at the previous pic you can see... two bikes on our trailer (which is the far one). Here is a close up. And the reason is: when we came to put the boat on Queens's trailer on Saturday, we found that someone (or rather, sometwo) had decided to use the trailer as a convenient cycle rack. Rather than break the locks we took the wheels off and slung the bikes into the trailer. My how we laughed.

DSCN2392-refl_crop So far, it was a beautiful dawn and morning, and the weather stayed gorgeous all day. Which was a contrast to the last time we weren't here, when we wimped out at the last moment because the almost-forecast was for the race to be cancelled due to bad weather. We boated early and missed all the rush, and got out onto the millpond-smooth water with plenty of time for a quiet warm-up rowing up the course.

James T took us up beyond the start, and on any other day we'd have been too early, but the weather was so good it was fine to just sit and wait for the other crews to come up. James found us a good place to tuck in, Simon who was bank-partying came down and said hello, I wee'd out of the side of the boat but others failed to follow my fine example and a pee bottle made its way down.

And so at last crews started arriving, we made our way to the correct place in the queue. One of the Mighty City VIII's was ahead of us somewhere, and a somewhat less mighty City boat of unknown quality was just behind us in the start order. Which conveniently leads me into a tale. Like all good tales this has two sides; I'll tell ours, you can ask City for theirs.


So, the start, and off we head, leaving a nice gap between us and the crew ahead as is only polite. City, oddly, are following quite close on our tail, and it soon becomes clear that they are going to play silly games, crossing the start line about - well, I forget. Perhaps a length, perhaps only half a length, behind us. Their game plan, presumably, is to row right though us in the first 500 m or so and leave us in their wake. But, it doesn't work, because they aren't fast enough. They are faster than us, but not by enough, and Tidy is not a man to be forced from his line except under extreme duress. Their cox does some dodgy steering, I think I recall, cutting off corners, which doesn't work - you need to be in the stream, just like Tideway.

head_of_trent_SE_6_crop The pic above is, as you see, of us being chaste (picture credit: Simon). Lets pause for a moment and examine the in-lined one of just us. One could pick out various faults, if being churlish; or note certain stylish elements like the delicately bent elbow at 2; but overall the impression is of a crew working well together.

head_of_trent_SE_1_crop A little way further down the course - oh, hold on, you're going to want to be vaguely familiar with the course map - things had got even more amusing with a third VIII (St Peters School) coming into play. They had put in a mighty spurt to catch City, and ended up clashing blades with them somewhere around the first big bend, so both crews had fallen back. By the time of this picture we were going round "the steps" as I thought of them, but really called Victoria Embankment I think. We were cutting the inside of teh curve, to give the St Peters boyz the line to come past, which they were doing, veery slowly; and City were still - as you see - on our tail. Had they been faster than us at this point I don't know what would have happened, but they weren't, so round we all went.


We all rowed off into the distance. Up ahead you see the Trent bridge, which is perhaps 3/5 of the way down the course. We made it though first, but after that both St Peters and City came past us. It all became something of a blur, to be honest, even at the time and certainly fairly soon afterwards, let alone two weeks later which is now when I'm writing this (whatever the date on the post may say). The finish line is below the boating point, so when we started passing finished crews heading back up we knew the end must be nigh, and so it was.

I don't seem to have a crew photo of us all, so for reference we were: James Tidy, cox. Steven Andrews, stroke; James Howard, 7; William Dulyea, 6; Chris Woods, 5; William Wykeham, 4; Chris Flowers, 3; William Connolley, 2 (and your author for this post); Paul Holland, bow. With Simon Emmings as bank party.

General venue notes: there was food n stuff, but it didn't wind up early, so was thin before the first division. Plenty of stuff afterwards though. The lane by the river got crowded; it was how we drove in and was fine then, but a better way to leave was out of the back away from the river.

What of the results I hear you cry? We came 34th, in 19:04.4. City beat us by 11 secs, and St Peters were another 35 secs ahead of them. We were pleased with our row; good for this stage of the year, with a promise of more to come.


* [*] But arranged in 3 divisions, so not so many all at once.
* Our GPS track


  1. In many of these pics it is quite noticeable that JH has his blade in at the catch before everyone else on stroke side. So it is no wonder he is keen to get some training done on those catches.